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BrownshoeCruise

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  1. My wife and I went on our first Cunard cruise (Queen Mary 2) and were fortunate enough to stay in a Queen's Grille (Q2) room. I was caught a little off-guard at the end of the cruise by the question of whom, and how much, to tip, so unfortunately stressed a bit on the final night running around getting cash and envelopes for people! However, after asking a few other people we met during the cruise, it was clear that their answers varied widely and that they also had also searched the web on the topic (even those who cruise a lot) but failed to find useful or thoughtful advice. So, I thought I'd write up what we did, either to help someone else consider this in the future or to receive feedback on our approach. It would appear that this topic can drive snarky comments or class warfare, so please take this as a suggestion primarily to fellow Americans who might be "used to" think about tipping a certain way and are unsure how they might want to act on this particular cruise, and who are traveling in a Grille's suite. Obviously, your individual mileage may vary. Also, please note that I was told onboard that of the circa $14USD auto gratuity applied each day per person, only about $3-4 goes to the restaurant waitstaff. I should also not that I intend this to apply only to the waitstaff in the restaurant, and the butler/steward for a Q2 room is a different topic (one for which I have even less ability to make a good argument). I was seeking to determine a "baseline" of tipping that would be the equivalent of 15% of the food charges, off which I could make changes for exceptional service. Here's how I thought about it. I would estimate that I can have a nice four course dinner at a nice restaurant for two for $140 (just food, before tax - say, two $18 appetizers, two $18 salads, two $25 entrees, two $15 desserts, misc). Since we also showed up for most breakfasts and lunches, I thought it was "fair" to think we had "spent" the equivalent of $250 per day on food (again, pre-tax, no liquor, which is billed separately with an auto-gratuity that I presume goes to the separate person responsible for bringing drinks). $250 per day for two is also about 15%-20% of the total cost Cunard typically charges at rack rate for two people in a Queens suite, which doesn't seem terribly off but hardly a precise measurement. Anyways, if I wanted to establish a baseline of 15%, that would be $38 per day. If about $3-4 of my auto-gratuity per person per day goes to the waitstaff, then for a party of two, I'd want to pay a baseline tip, in addition to the auto-gratuity, of $38-$7 = $31. For a 7-day cruise, that'd mean I'd expect to tip about $190-$200 to the waitstaff directly. Even if I thought that was the "right" number, it's unclear "to whom" it should go. In the US, you pay once to your waiter, and in many restaurants that person will pay out the busboys or hostess. In the Queen's Grille, in addition to your waiter, there is at least one assigned assistant waiter/runner, plus the head waiter and the maitre'd. In our case, we gave about 10% of the total to the maitre'd, 20% to the head waiter, and the rest we split between the main waiter and the assistant (in our case, 50/50 since the assistant was particularly good and the main waiter slightly less so). In hindsight, and if *everyone* did this, it might perhaps be overdoing it. If a waiter worked an entire year, had 10 tables like this, 5 nights a week, 50 weeks per year, that would be the running equivalent of $95,000 annually. Maybe my starting $140 dinner estimate is too high? There are certainly six-figure-earning waiters in NYC, but not that many. As a former waiter myself (got me through college), I don't think that that run-rate is necessary... so maybe next time I'd reduce that by a bit. Again, not trying to start an argument about class, just saying. Anyway, would be interested the feedback for future Cunard cruises (which I am certain to do, it was great!)
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